Tosca - out with a bang

OPERA singer Fabio Armiliato must be thinking that Tosca is his profession's equivalent of Macbeth as a work of ill luck.

Appearing as the eponymous heroine's beloved, Mario Cavaradossi, in the production's first night at the open-air arena in Macerata last week, he was stretchered off near the end of the opera after being hit in the leg by debris from blanks fired in the execution scene.

For Friday night's performance, the tenor bravely hobbled back on stage - then fell and broke his other leg in two places while standing in the wings at the end of the first Act. He returned to hospital by ambulance, commenting from his stretcher: "Could it be that I am destined never to leave this theatre on my own two feet?"

He told RAI state television: "It was incredibly bad luck. I put my foot down wrong." His injury will keep him out of action for two months. Earlier he had said he had resumed his role so as not to disappoint the fans at Macerata, whose festival is a highlight of Italian summer opera.

Armiliato's shooting was a grimly appropriate conclusion to an opera that has suffered more than its fair share of mishaps down the years. Indeed, in the context of the opera itself, the death of Mario is something of a mishap, since both he and Tosca believe that the rifles aimed at him are not loaded and that their salvation is nigh once the mock execution is over.

It can't have helped Armiliato's mood, as his legs gave way beneath him, to hear his co-star sing one last line about how convincingly he had just faked his own death. Fiction became hopelessly entangled with reality - and not for the first time in a production of Tosca.

Back in the 1920s, at the Met in New York, the knife with which Tosca (Maria Jeritza) murders the evil Baron Scarpia (Antonio Scotti) at the end of Act II failed to retract and the singer was stabbed. During the famous Covent Garden production of 1965, Maria Callas's hair caught fire while she was singing the title role and had to be put out by a quick-witted Scarpia, played by Tito Gobbi.

The firing squad scene has caused problems before now. Also in 1965, at Rome's Caracalla Baths, the gunfire scorched Gianni Raimondi's face.

A rather different mishap occurred in a previous Macerata festival, when the sound effects failed and the rifles made no noise. Next day a local paper wrote: "Cavaradossi dies of a heart attack."

Any number of calamities have attended the final moment, when Tosca flings herself off the ramparts, supposed to be those of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. Legend has it that one particularly portly soprano in the 1920s landed on the offstage trampoline and bounced straight back up in full view of the audience. More seriously, the American singer Elisabeth Knighton Printy jumped off the wrong side of the stage in St Paul, Minnesota, two years ago and plunged more than 30ft to the ground, breaking both legs.

Going to the opera is such a respectable pursuit that there is something strangely heartening about such stories of disaster and incompetence. Yet all the ingredients for unexpected catastrophes, from high emotion to low cunning, are right there in the genre itself. Tosca is far from the only casualty. Indeed, Fabio Armiliato himself was in hospital once before, after a sword pierced his foot during a production of Carmen.

He has many illustrious precedents. At a performance of Rigoletto in Chile in 1970, as the tenor Louis Quilico threw his head back to start singing, a feather floated down from the rafters straight into his mouth. He passed out without uttering a sound.

Rather higher drama was on offer in Montevideo in 1934 when an orchestra member pulled out a gun and killed the conductor in mid-performance. It turned out that the conductor, Franco Paolantonio, had been sleeping with his wife.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems and Network Administrator

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album